House Amendment Expands COBRA Eligibility

July 20, 2009 ( - An amendment to a U.S. House health care reform bill would allow departing employees access to continuing health coverage from their old company until they are eligible under a new employer's plan.

A Business Insurance news report said the amendment to   H.R. 3200 by Representative Susan Davis (D-California) would also extend such coverage until the departed worker becomes eligible under a federal or state-based health insurance exchange that is set up under the broader bill.   Typically, eligibility under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act( COBRA) is 18 months for those fired or laid off and 36 months for those entitled because of death, divorce or marital separation.

The House Education and Labor Committee on Friday approved H.R. 3200 (see  Health Care Reform Continues March through Congress ). Business Insurance said the Davis amendment was approved on a voice vote. U.S. Senate versions of the health reform bill do not now include a comparable COBRA expansion provision.

As part of an economic stimulus measure, legislators earlier this year included a provision that provides a 65% COBRA premium subsidy for employees who are terminated involuntarily from September 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009 (see  H.R. 1 Contains COBRA Provisions ). The subsidy is available up to nine months.